Q: Who was the Buddha?
Buddha was a man who lived some 2,600 years ago and who revolutionised
religious thought in India. This way of thought spread throughout
the Eastern world and has now found its way to the West.
Q: What does the word 'Buddha' mean?
word 'Buddha' stands for the Awakened State (literally it means
awakened), so it is used in relation to waking up to truth, to
Q: What did the Buddha teach?
teaching was extensive. However, it is commonly agreed among all
traditions throughout the Buddhist world, that fundamentally the
teaching of the Buddha is contained in just four truths - the
Four Noble Truths.
Q: What are these truths?
A: They are: the truth of suffering; the truth of regarding the cause of suffering; the truth regarding the cessation of suffering; and the path, the way leading to the cessation of that suffering.
We suffer when life does not go our way, when our hopes are dashed, and when disappointment or tragedy strikes. We also suffered when life does go our way. Why? Because we fear loss - loss of pleasure, wealth, family or friends. This is the truth of suffering.
Wishing, wanting, and desiring are the cause of suffering. We produce our own suffering by the way we think and act.
Because we produce our own suffering, it is within our power not to produce it, and not to suffer. This is the truth regarding the cessation of suffering.
The way of life which does not cause suffering
is the path; it is the way of harmlessness, wishlessness, selflessness.
Q: Is there a God in Buddhism as in Christianity?
is very difficult to compare Buddhism with Christianity. One would
have to say, however, there is no God in Buddhism in the way that
God in Christianity is commonly understood.
Q: What do Buddhists believe?
Buddhists believe different things, but the nature of belief is
itself an important issue in Buddhism. Belief is to be seen as
belief, not as fact. When we see our beliefs as facts, then we
are deluding ourselves. When we see our beliefs as beliefs, then
we are not. Seeing things in their true light is the most important
thing in Buddhism. Deluding ourselves is the cause of much suffering.
So Buddhists try to see beliefs as beliefs. They may still believe
in certain things - that is their prerogative - but they do not
cling to those beliefs; they do not mind or worry about whether
their beliefs are true or not, nor do they try to prove that which
they know cannot be proved. Ideally though, a Buddhist does not
indulge in any kind of belief.
Q: Does Buddhism teach reincarnation?
is not a teaching of the Buddha. In Buddhism the teaching is of
rebirth, not of reincarnation.
Q: What is the difference between reincarnation and rebirth?
A: The reincarnation idea is to believe in a soul or a being, separate from the body. At the death of the physical body, this soul is said to move into another state and then enter a womb to be born again.
Rebirth is different and can be explained in
this way. Take away the notion of a soul or a being living inside
the body; take away all ideas of self existing either inside or
outside the body. Also take away notions of past, present and
future; in fact take away all notions of time. Now, without reference
to time and self, there can be no before or after, no beginning
or ending, no birth or death, no coming or going. Yet there is
life! Rebirth is the experience of life in the moment, without
birth, without death; it is the experience of life which is neither
eternal nor subject to annihilation.
Q: Does that mean there is no such thing as birth and death?
which is born, dies. Forms come and go. All that comes into existence
is impermanent; it is born and it dies. But the very essence of
what "I" am -- the Buddha-nature -- is unborn and undying.
Q: Is this just a Buddhist belief?
are people and people do believe things, but Buddhism is concerned
with truth, not with belief, and the teaching is to see things
as they are. If we believe anything which has not been experienced,
we should know what we are doing. When we do not understand something,
then to maintain an open mind is the healthiest and wisest practice.
Q: But what happens when we die?
we understand what the word "I" really represents, we
can realise the answer to this question. Buddhism does not offer
intellectual answers; it only gives directions for the experiencing
Q: How is it possible to experience truth?
understanding that "I" and birth and death are notions,
concepts, ideas, beliefs. It is the idea of a self living life
through time, which produces the idea of birth and death. We have
been conditioned into believing that we have come into existence
and in due course will cease to exist. If we see through these
ideas and realise that this moment neither begins nor ends, we
shall realise deathlessness.
Q: But how can getting rid of ideas enables us to see deathlessness?
deathless is here all the while, but ideas block it out. It is
like the sun because of the clouds. But as soon as the clouds
are cleared away, there is the sun. Likewise, as soon as ideas
are cleared away from the mind, there is the true state of birthlessness
Q: How does one clear away ideas?
seeing ideas as ideas and not as truths; by being aware of mental
formations through meditation.
Q: Are there various kinds of Buddhist meditation?
are different exercises taught by teachers of different Buddhist
traditions and schools. The main differences, however, are superficial
ones, related to psychological or emotional problems. Many of
these exercises can only be administered by experienced meditation
teachers. For the average person, however, whose sole aim is to
realise the deep clear teachings of the Buddha, meditation is
a simple process of awareness and investigation.
Q: How does one practise this kind of meditation?
being fully aware, as one thinks, speaks and acts.
Q: But what about sitting meditation?
A: Sitting meditation is the same. It is just a question of being aware. Sitting meditation is an excellent thing to do, but some people are not able to find a quiet spot to sit in every day. If this is the case, one is not automatically debarred from the insights of meditation. To meditate properly is to do one's duty and to live without wishing life were different, or somehow better.
The opportunity for seeing truth is ever present,
because truth is ever present. Just because the sun is covered
by clouds does not mean the sun is not there. Conditions are always
just right for being aware of the true situation. All one has
to do is be conscious of what is taking place within one and around
one, without making any judgements. If we "see" by being
aware, then we shall see very deeply into everything.
Q: How does one practise sitting meditation?
meditation is the shutting down of all sense stimuli in order
to realise that awareness is not a function of the senses or of
the thinking process. It is practised by sitting quite still with
the eyes closed (or not focusing on anything), by letting life
be, by breathing in and out (not changing the breath, not trying
to breath deeply), by just breathing the way one always breathes,
and by noticing the subtle changes in the mind and in the body.
It is neither difficult nor complicated.
Q: Does one need to have a meditation teacher?
Buddha's teaching can be the teacher and awareness can be the
practice which will lead straight to liberation.
Q: What is karma?
is cause and effect. When someone commits a crime, he suffers
the consequences. That is karma. When someone does good, he enjoys
the consequences. That is karma. But karma runs deep; its affects
our hearts and minds. From the beginning, mind is absolutely pure.
If we are unkind, deceitful, greedy or cruel, we defile that purity.
Imagine a plain white cloth, beautiful, bright and clean. And
then imagine someone splattering it with black ink. The cloth
is then spoilt. The mind is like the white cloth. Like and dislike,
greed and hatred, are like the ink splattered across it. When
the mind is unmarked and unspoilt, suffering and enjoyment do
not exist. This is happiness beyond pleasure, beyond karma. All
karma is impermanent and runs out in due course. A Buddhist will
learn how to get off the karmic see-saw of pleasure and pain.
Q: Can anyone see the Truth?
Buddha was compassionate. He did not teach an impossible teaching
that ordinary people could not understand. On the contrary, his
teaching was clear and simple. Anyone who makes the effort to
be aware will realise his or her Buddha-nature and be freed from
Compiled by: Yew Han Hee (email@example.com)
Computer Science 2nd year, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia.
(minor typo correction by Binh Anson, 8-Sept-96)